Following the surprising success of their debut, you could forgive Sublime With Rome's lead singer for being overly excited. After all, it's not often–if ever–that a singer could perform with a band whose pedigree is on par with Sublime's, not to mention release an album. Yet Rome Ramirez found himself introducing Sublime's brand of reggae rock to an audience who were only a few years younger than him.
Sublime With Rome's debut, Yours Truly, may have breathed new life into the band, but there was trouble simmering internally. Drummer Bud Gaugh left the outfit in December 2011, vowing to never rejoin the band amid doubts over the group's name and desire to tour. His subtraction allowed for Eric Wilson and Ramirez to enlist drummer-to-the-stars Josh Freese to take over behind the kit for subsequent tours.
When the trio went back into the studio this past December to work on a sophomore album, the band's return to Sonic Ranch in El Paso proved to be trying. They had already worked on a few ideas in Wilson's studio, and now they were working again with producer Paul Leary, but the songs weren't as plentiful, so the band returned to California without making progress. However, when they returned in February, something was different. The group recorded 19 songs in three weeks, with Freese proving to be a calming, creative force in the studio.
"Josh is so rad," Ramirez says. "He's so talented, and tracking drums–one of the most fun things I've ever done in my life. Watching him do that was insane!"
Unlike during the sessions for Yours Truly, the band were focused on making a complete, collaborative album. Reese was involved with the songwriting process and helped to push Wilson and Ramirez creatively. Recording in Texas, Ramirez says, helped the group concentrate on making a cohesive album without worrying about external distractions. "I don't know if I'd be able to write those songs on this album in LA," he explains. "I'm not saying the songs would be any better or worse, but I don't think I'd be able to write these songs. I stand behind this record; it's so sick, and I think the fans are gonna go ballistic when they hear this shit!"
With Sirens slated to be released on July 17, Sublime With Rome continue to carve out an identity separate from their previous incarnation. "It really feels like I've been able to cement myself in that position with the band of what we're trying to do," Ramirez says. "That being said, having this record is the perfect opportunity to showcase what we would like to do in the future. We're always challenging ourselves to write better music. From Yours Truly to Sirens, we've become a lot tighter, closer, and I think it reflects in our music."
More than 20 years after Sublime first appeared on music fans' radar, the new version manages to be as popular as ever. Ramirez attributes the group's success not only to their popular back catalog, but also to their internal harmony.
"We're going to keep playing, and honestly, it sounds super-wack or whatever, but we really like one another," Ramirez says. "We talk; when we have a problem, we address it. There are bands that go out on the road and don't have fun because the guys don't get along with one another, but we do. It's easy to see how much fun we're having and that we're actually enjoying being and playing with one another."
Sublime With Rome perform with Rebelution, Pepper and Mickey Avalon at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, 8808 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine; www.livenation.com. July 17, 6 p.m. $30-$655. All ages.